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William Byrd

(1543—1623) composer

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(b probably Lincoln, 1543; d Stondon Massey, Essex, 1623).

Eng. composer. Org., Lincoln Cath., 1563. From 1572 hon. org. Chapel Royal jointly with Tallis. In 1575 he and Tallis jointly pubd. a coll. of motets, Cantiones sacrae, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I. From 1587 to 1596, Byrd pubd. several important collections of Eng. mus. Left London for Essex 1591, as member of household of his patrons, the Petres. Wrote some of his Gradualia for undercover masses held in Ingatestone Hall. Little is known of Byrd's life apart from various lawsuits over property and the fact of his Roman Catholicism, from the consequences of which he seems to have been protected at a time of anti‐Papism by his fame as a composer and by friends in high places. In his motets and masses, Byrd showed himself the equal of his Fr. and It. contemporaries as a contrapuntist. He was an innovator in form and technique in his liturgical works, the finest of which is the Great Service. His madrigals are also of exceptional quality, and there is superb mus. in his solo songs and songs for the stage. In his Fancies and In Nomines for str. instr. he est. an Eng. instr. style of comp., but perhaps even more significant was his mus. for virginals, in which he developed variation form, and his series of pavans and galliards for kbd. Among his pupils were Morley and Tomkins, and probably Weelkes and Bull. Prin. comps.:

sacred works:

Masses, No.1 in 3 v.‐parts, No.2 in 4, No.3 in 5. Motets: Cantiones (with Tallis, 1575. Contains 17 items by Byrd); Cantiones sacrae , Book I, 1589 (29 motets), Book II, 1591 (32 motets);

Gradualia ,

Book I, 1605 (63 motets), Book II, 1607 (45 motets);

Preces, Psalms and Litany

; Short Service; Great Service; 12 verse anthems; 10 psalms.

secular works:

Madrigals; sonnets;

Songs of sundrie natures

(1589), containing 47 songs; solo songs, canons, and rounds.


14 Fantasies; 8 In Nomines; 9 pieces in In Nomine style on plainsong melodies. keyboard: Over 120 pieces in various colls., incl. My Ladye Nevells Booke , transcr. 1591, and Parthenia (1611).

Subjects: Music

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